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Forestry expert testifies before congress

January 29, 2020
Brandon Collins testifying before two House subcommittees

Brandon Collins testifies before two House subcommittees on Tuesday about the state of forests and wildfires.

A Berkeley researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management travelled to Washington, D.C., to testify on Tuesday before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. 

The hearing, titled “Out of Control: the Impact of Wildfires on Our Power Sector and the Environment,” included testimony from industry officials and specialists on a range of issues including wildfire, forest management, air quality, changing climate, and the power sector.

Brandon Collins, a research scientist with the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at Berkeley Forests, discussed how forests historically had frequent fire of low- to moderate-severity but that a century of logging and fire suppression severely altered the landscape. He noted that the condition of contemporary forests—which now regularly experience large-scale tree mortality from such events as insect outbreaks and drought—need diverse management approaches to prevent more severe wildfires. 

“Our great challenge is to manage forests such that they can tolerate fire, even under more extreme weather conditions, and still retain their fundamental character,” wrote Collins in his testimony.

Collins pointed to increases in tree density, greater amounts of dead biomass, the loss of larger trees, and increasingly homogenized vegetation patterns as factors that contribute to the greater intensity of wildfires. He said that—against a backdrop of complex land management, ownership, and societal constraints—forest managers must employ a diversified approach to forest restoration, even as climate change exacerbates many problems. 

“Our current rate of forest restoration is falling woefully short of what is needed in these forests,” commented Collins. “It is time to prioritize forest health and resilience, even over other resource concerns, in order to ensure their continued provisioning of services we depend on.”

The subcommittees' full hearing can be viewed on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce website. The full testimony from Brandon Collins can be read here.